Detroit Red Wings: Buy cautiously when it comes to William Nylander

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

There is no doubt that William Nylander has reached a superstar level but is often considered an afterthought in Toronto, buried behind a couple of other bona fide superstars. The term afterthought may not be a fair observation. Still, the 27-year-old forward appears to be the odd man out as the Maple Leafs try to navigate the salary cap under the guidance of their new general manager, Brad Treliving. The Detroit Red Wings may have an opportunity to strike.

After a bizarre week or so in Toronto, the dust has finally settled, and it’s back to business. The organization has moved on from Kyle Dubas, who has quickly found a promotion elsewhere. Dubas was recently named president of hockey operations of the Pittsburgh Penguins. More about Dubas’ demise in Toronto is in the link.

Brad Treliving and the Toronto Maple Leafs might be looking for a trade partner for William Nylander this summer. With Auston Matthews and William Nylander entering a contract year, and the organization is up against the cap, it appears the team will prioritize extending Matthews. Matthews is expected to garner an eight-year deal that averages anywhere between $12-14 million. The NHL salary cap is expected to increase in the coming years, but with Mitchell Marner and John Tavares both having two years left on their current deals and basically all of the teams’ depth players set to hit free agency and only roughly $9 million or so to fill out the roster, a player like Nylander could become expendable.

Expendable seems harsh for a player that is coming off a career year. Nylander totaled 40 goals and 87 points over 82 games this past season while maintaining a Corsi For Percentage of 52.5%. Nylander started almost 65% of his five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone this past season which can be analyzed in multiple ways. Like most teams, Sheldon Keefe and the Leafs want to start their top offensive players in the offensive zone to maximize their scoring chances. On the other hand, Nylander isn’t considered to be as well-rounded as Marner or, in Detroit’s terms, Dylan Larkin to be relied upon in the defensive zone.

Nylander, who just turned 27, is coming off a career-high 3.4 points per 60 minutes pace, to go with 1.6 and 1.9 goals and assists per 60, respectfully. Nylander’s 52.5 Corsi For Percentage in even-strength situations is good but the second worst of his career. He also posted a 2.7 Relative Corsi For this past season in even-strength situations, which is also good but not nearly as high as it could be for a player of his caliber.

The Detroit Red Wings need to buy cautiously regarding William Nylander.

First off, there is no guarantee that Nylander will become available, but if he does, Steve Yzerman needs to pick up the phone and inquire. Although a deal of this magnitude is doubtful within the division, the Detroit Red Wings have the assets to get a deal done; they just need to be very mindful.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will start the trade talks with Moritz Seider, and I can tell you right now that will be out of the question, but no one can blame them for asking. Again, a deal of this significance within the division is improbable, but if it did happen, it needs to make complete sense for both organizations.

The Leafs won’t be trading Nylander for a middle-of-the-road prospect and a couple of players with potential. Toronto will be expecting a top-level NHL player plus a package of prospects. Following the Seider denial, the Leafs would look at a package that includes something like Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper, and Jonatan Berggren; 40-goal scorers don’t grow on trees. You’d need to go back to Marian Hossa in 2008-09 to find the last Detroit Red Wings player to achieve that feat. Only Yzerman can determine if the organization is in a position to sell off some of its top prospects for a top-tier offensive player. I have no problem with it, but he must ensure it’s for the ‘right’ player. Can the Detroit Red Wings obtain a player like Alex DeBrincat at a cheaper rate? Maybe it’s more logical to look west toward Kyle Connor instead.

Although Nylander is essentially the third option in Toronto behind Matthews and Marner, on most teams, he’d be the top forward, and he’s precisely the type of player Detroit needs to pair with Larkin moving forward. Nylander checks a lot of boxes. He’s a 40-goal scorer. He’s a much-needed right-handed shot. He will immediately improve Detroit’s top-line and power play unit, but there are some concerns.

Nylander, entering a contract year, will be looking to cash in on a long-term extension and proved in the past he won’t think twice about holding out. He’s coming off a team-friendly deal that averages $6.92 million; he will likely command around $10 million per season on a long-term contract starting next summer. Is that something Yzerman will be willing to do? Does Yzerman value a player like Larkin, who has proven valuable in all three zones and produces at nearly a point per game clip more than a one-trick-pony type player? Even though that one-trick (scoring) is something the organization desperately needs.

We all know Yzerman is a stickler when it comes to contract negotiations, and I am not naive enough to think Yzerman makes any blockbuster deal for a player set to enter a contract year without an extension in place; negotiations may be a more extensive issue in this type of scenario than we would like to believe.

Consistency and continued effort can be a concern at times with Nylander too. I spoke with an amateur scout that has requested to remain anonymous due to a conflict of interest concerning the employer, who has not granted permission to publish an interview. The scout mentioned how impressive Nylander is as a scorer, creator, and puck transporter but is leery about his game-to-game level of effort. In exact words, ‘he can be an elite player when he wants to be.’

Next. 5 free agent forwards to target this off-season. dark

It’s difficult to criticize Nylander’s postseason effort this past playoff; he totaled four goals and ten points in the Maple Leafs’ 11 games, but he’s a hot and cold performer. At times Nylander tends to disappear for stretches of time and then suddenly can take over a game or period. Furthermore, suggesting that the Detroit Red Wings need to buy cautiously.